Touching on a myriad of issues affecting his two terms in office as his presidency comes to a close, President Obama discussed successes and failures of his White House tenure and eventually broached the subject of NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, during an interview with two German media outlets this past week.
While acknowledging Mr. Snowden’s actions did “raise legitimate concerns,” Mr. Obama admitted the former NSA contractor’s methods violated accepted practices of the intelligence community.
Asked if he intended to pardon Snowden, Mr. Obama replied:
“I can’t pardon somebody who hasn’t gone before a court and presented themselves, so that’s not something that I would comment on at this point.”
Charged with violations of the Espionage Act of 1917 for revealing a mass surveillance program operated by the National Security Agency in cooperation with telecommunications firms, Snowden fled to Russia and has lived in Moscow since gaining temporary asylum in 2013.
Following a federal judge’s ruling the collection of metadata was unconstitutional, a campaign urging Mr. Obama to pardon Snowden emerged and has intensified in the past year through an online petition sponsored by activists, artists, rights groups and former government employees.
A feature film, Snowden, interpreted as an appeal to Mr. Obama for clemency, was released earlier this year.
Mr. Snowden himself did make the case for mercy in September in an interview with The Guardian. Expressing a desire to return to his homeland, Snowden insisted his is a moral case and stated no one was injured or placed in danger as a result of his actions:
“Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists — for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things,” Snowden said.
“At the same time, there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result.”
Snowden faces an uphill battle for clemency: Aside from Mr. Obama declining to offer a pardon, President-elect Donald Trump has declared Snowden to be a traitor and the New York businessman’s CIA designate, Kansas Republican House member, Mike Pompeo, has designated the former NSA analyst less a whistleblower and more a “serial exaggerator and fabricator” deserving “prison and not a pardon.”
[RT America] [The Guardian] [Photo courtesy SlashGear via Complex]